Thursday 11 July 2024

Fashionable veiling for hats in the early 20th century


Veiling for hats was fashionable in the early 20th century according to the February 1918 issue of The lace and embroidery review, an American magazine for lace buyers. Reporting on the items that were selling well in department stores, the magazine notes that veiling material was selling better than ready made veils, suggesting that women were buying netting by the yard and making up their own veils. The advertisements in the magazine suggest that there were two main styles of veiling, either a fairly long veil with a border design or shorter veils with embellishment across the face. The model in the main image above wears a hat with a deep, loose veil of hexagonal mesh with chenille dots in various sizes. The model in the image below shows the alternative style with a short hexagonal veil closely fitted around her face, embellished with a floral, scrolling design.

The article records that filet or square mesh was becoming popular but hexagon, diamond and fancy weaves were still selling well. It suggests that filet is better as a ground for angular designs, such as butterflies and leaves, while floral patterns are more effective on hexagonal meshes. It notes that all-over scrolls and chenille dots are fashionable, which is borne out by the illustrations. However, although velvet circles along the border of a veil are also popular, they do not wear well, because instead of being worked in chain stitch into the net they are cut out and stuck on to the veil and can come loose and fall off. I assumed all these veils and nets would be black but the article reports that purple, taupe and reddish brown shades were also selling well.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

The artfulness of filet lace curtains

I’m always impressed by the beautiful designs that can be worked in filet lace. Working on a square grid would seem to be very limiting but in skilled hands quite naturalistic images can be formed, as you can see with the cherubs and flowers in this image.

To work filet lace the lacemaker first has to make the net background. This is generally done by starting at a corner of the work, which is secured to a fixed point. The net is then made by looping thread round a spacer (rather like a lolly stick) to ensure the squares of the net are the same size and securing them to the stitch above with a knot. The lacemaker continues making a line of net stitches, gradually increasing stitches on each side of the work, until the required size is reached. It sounds complicated and is difficult to start with, until you get into a rhythm and learn how to manipulate the various loops of the thread as well as the netting needle and the spacer. In her book The technique of filet lace, Pauline Knight includes some images of how to make the net, which are helpful if you are learning netting. However, today you can cheat and use readymade machine net for filet work if you find that easier.

Once the net is made, or bought, the design has to be darned into it. Again this is not as simple as just filling the area with solid stitching. The threads are worked over and under each other in a regular pattern, so that, for linen stitch, two horizontal and two vertical threads pass through each open square. Therefore the lacemaker has to work out the thread paths before starting work. Margaret Swain in her book The needlework of Mary Queen of Scots notes that Mary and her companions were keen needlewomen and particularly enjoyed puzzling out how to work filet lace designs ‘in an age that enjoyed mazes, anagrams and emblems’. So not only are these lace curtains beautiful they are also works of art and artfulness.